HOUSTON — With the way Alex Bregman has been swinging the bat lately, Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch said it's a shame the team has an off day on Thursday.
Bregman homered and had a career-high five RBIs to lead the Astros to a 9-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night. Bregman extended his on-base streak to 33 games, a span where he's hitting .360 with an on-base percentage of .449.
"It's a step in the right direction, but there's still so much to improve on and so much to get better at," Bregman said. "That's what this game is the best -- it's a game of failure. You can be on top of the world one day and 0-for-4 the next day. You can't ever get too high or too low."
Evan Gattis also hit his 25th home run of the year in the win.
The defending champs have won five straight, finishing a 10-game homestand with a 7-3 record. Houston has won 12 of its last 15 games entering a three-game series in Boston against the team with the best record in baseball.
Bregman gave the Astros a 2-0 lead in the third inning with his 29th homer of the season, a line-drive shot off Jake Odorizzi into the left-field Crawford Boxes. He later added a three-run double off the left-field wall with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, his MLB-leading 47th double of the season, to put Houston up 9-1.
"He's putting up so many quality at-bats, one after another," Hinch said. "It's hard to expect it at this level because it's not as easy as these guys make it look sometimes, but he's getting great pitches to hit. He's not missing them -- he's doing damage."
Gattis extended Houston's lead to 4-0 with a two-run homer in the fourth inning off Odorizzi, also to left field on the first pitch of his at-bat.
Houston went up 5-1 with an RBI single to right from Yuli Gurriel off Odorizzi (5-10), who allowed five runs on four hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings.
"We just had trouble containing some of the guys that are extremely hot right now," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Bregman's probably as hot as anybody I've seen for a while in terms of just consistently good at-bats and driving the baseball."
At one point, the Twins even tried a four-man outfield shift against Bregman.
Houston starter Framber Valdez (3-1) went 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits and three walks while striking out five. He's the first pitcher in club history -- and just the sixth in MLB history -- to begin his career with four straight appearances of at least 4 1/3 innings, allowing one or fewer runs in each of those outings.
Valdez struggled with his accuracy early, throwing two four-pitch walks to his first three batters faced before escaping the first inning with a double play, a turn of events that Valdez later called a "big relief." The Twins' lone run off Valdez came in the fifth inning on a solo home run from Willians Astudillo.
"He worked out of it, I just held firm," Hinch said. "I almost got the bullpen up in the first inning. He did work his way through that very weird line for him the first couple of innings because it could have imploded easily on him."
Jose Altuve finally snapped a lengthy hitless streak with a double down the left-field line in the sixth inning that scored George Springer. After striking out in the first inning and popping out in the third, Altuve stretched his hitless streak to 19 at-bats, the longest hitless streak of his career.
"I tell you one thing, Jose Altuve is going to be the MVP that he was for the rest of the season," Bregman said. "He's a special hitter and he always makes my job a lot easier."
Twins: 3B Miguel Sano wanted to take batting practice on Wednesday afternoon, but the Twins ultimately held him out as a precaution. Sano was carted off the field Tuesday night with a lower left leg bruise suffered after he slid into second base. He was walking with a limp on Wednesday, but Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said there's a "good chance" he plays on Friday. . OF Eddie Rosario (sore quadriceps) took batting practice and could return on Friday.
Astros: RHP Charlie Morton (shoulder) will likely start for Houston on Saturday in Boston, barring any setback, Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. Morton was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Aug. 29 with right shoulder discomfort. If Morton is unable to start, rookie Josh James will likely start, Hinch said. . RHP Lance McCullers (forearm) threw a brief bullpen session off the mound on Wednesday, Hinch said. . IF/OF Marwin Gonzalez (oblique) and RP Hector Rondon (wrist) are expected to be available for the Boston series, Hinch said.
Over the 10-game homestand, Bregman hit .486 with seven doubles, five homers and 17 RBIs. He has hit four homers in his last five games and has recorded an extra-base hit and an RBI in five straight games, the longest such streak for an Astros hitter since Morgan Ensberg homered in six straight games in April 2006.
Twins: Stephen Gonsalves (0-2, 9.90 ERA) will serve as the so-called 'primary pitcher' in the Twins' third attempt at the experimental approach of starting a relief pitcher for an inning or two as an 'opener' before a primary pitcher enters. The Twins host Kansas City on Friday.
Astros: Gerrit Cole (13-5, 2.86 ERA) will start for Houston when they visit Boston on Friday night for the start of a three-game series. Cole is 1-0 in one start against the Red Sox this season where he went seven innings and allowed three runs, five hits, a walk and seven strikeouts in a 7-3 win on June 1.